With spring practices set to conclude with the annual Blue-Gold Game on April 21, Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly took the four-way quarterback competition to another level Saturday. Gone was the security provided by wearing red jerseys, and all four QBs vying for a starting role in 2012 for the first time had to make the proper checks — many of which were newly installed — in a live scrimmage setting.
It was the truest barometer possible, junior Andrew Hendrix said.
“It absolutely was. Being a quarterback is an art and a science,” Hendrix explained. “The science and the board — doing things in the play room — it has to translate to the field. Today was that art piece of it, where you could know it on the board, but if you can’t do it on the field ... guys have to look back and see you being confident. I think that was the opportunity today, to really show that you’re the leader of the offense.”
Hendrix, classmate Tommy Rees, sophomore Everett Golson and early enrollee Gunner Kiel all showed positive signs of improvement during Saturday’s one and only open practice of the spring. No one separated himself from the rest of the group, which is expected to be the case going into fall camp. Golson’s accuracy was much better, but when he got near the red zone, he took too much time at the line of scrimmage reading the defense as Kelly screamed to pick up the pace from the sideline. Rees, who nearly converted a first down on a designed run on his first snap, was fairly polished, though a couple incompletions irked offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. Kiel, with the fewest repetitions of the group, seemed to have a solid grasp of the offense and made some nice throws. Hendrix seemed just as confident at the helm as Rees.
“Some days I could be first, some days I could be last,” Hendrix admitted. “Honestly, I have no idea. We were saying in the locker room that we have four really good quarterbacks. The level of competition is so extremely high from Tommy and Everett, to Gunner, who just got here and can throw it like any of us can. It really helps to keep you motivated when you see all four guys and it can be anyone’s job at any given time.
“It’s exciting; I love going live. When you know you’re not going to get hit you can kind of stayed relaxed a little bit more. Sometimes when you’re live, you start to get a little tense. That’s the best training you can get for the season.”
All four quarterbacks will be live in the Blue-Gold game, Kelly announced Saturday. Hendrix is more than fine with that.
“For a quarterback, when you know it’s not live, it’s sort of a different mindset,” he said. “You can do your best, but it’s never really the same thing as when you put on the blue jersey instead of the red. Your clock ticks a little bit faster.
“I’m really confident. It’s fun coming to work every day with the four guys and Coach Martin and Coach Kelly. They do make it fun. Every day I’m learning more and more. It comes from making mistakes, but the next day I don’t make the same mistakes and that’s when my confidence is at an all-time high. You do have to make mistakes to learn in this offense because it’s so fast-paced.”